GTPulse: TCAPS Montessori School Fosters Community Through Making Stone Soup

 As humans we are naturally drawn to being around others. Introvert or not, people like feeling a sense of community. Stone Soup is an old folk story that has been retold in different ways for centuries. The settings, time period and characters might change but the moral is always the same; a community functions best when we all work together. TCAPS Montessori School put on it’s second Stone Soup event so that their young students can create, participate and feel a sense of their own community.

Luette Frost is a proud Montessori mom and organizer of the event. She hopes the event will only get bigger as the years go on, but also hopes that other community groups in the area will be inspired to start their own Stone Soup event.

“It’s a great Fall sort of harvest, coming together as a community to make something.”

The Stone Soup day begins with local celebrities coming in to read the story to different classrooms. Some of this year’s celebrity readers were the fabulous Melissa Smith, new TCAPS superintendent Ann Cardon, Traverse City Mayor Carruthers, Ashlea Walter from Norte, Amy Shamroe from the city commission and many more. 

Although there are many versions of the Stone Soup story to choose from including a Mexican version called Cactus Soup and a Chinese version called The Real Story of Stone Soup, the version read to the TCAPS Montessori students was, appropriately, the Northern Michigan variation Petoskey Stone Soup by Martha F Mothershead.

“All the versions are about strangers coming into town and the folks who come into town bring these magical stones to make soup. So they basically get people excited to work together and they say ‘oh well it would taste so much better if it had carrots’ so someone runs off to bring carrots to the soup. ‘Oh it would taste so much better with salt’ so someone would bring that” Luette said.

Each class is responsible for contributing something to the Stone Soup that was being made in a giant pot in the school garden, just like in the story. After the kids had the story read to them, they helped their teacher chop up the ingredient that their class would be contributing. Once the class had a big bowlful of  veggies to contribute, they followed their teacher out to the garden and lined up so each of them could take a scoop of the veggie and drop it into the soup, however each class’s first student dropped a stone into the soup as well. The stones obviously won’t be eaten but provided symbolism in line with the story. One sweet little boy responsible for dropping his class’s stone into the soup was apprehensive to do so. He went back and forth between peering into the soup, looking at the rock and looking at the adults surrounding the pot.

“It’s okay, no one’s going to eat the rock I promise,” Luette sweetly assured him.

It was touching to see a little boy so concerned with someone potentially eating the palm-sized stone. The worry he had for a future stranger was incredibly sweet, and definitely a sign of community.

He dropped his stone in and we cheered for him.

The vegetables used for the soup were all local. Luette has worked hard to revive the Montessori school garden and her efforts have paid off. The garden is lovely, thriving and fruitful enough to provide some herbs and veggies to the soup. The students also took field trips to the Sara Hardy Farmers Market to pick out veggies with a $100 donation from Oryana Food Co-Op.

 New superintendent Ann Cardon was a celebrity reader and had a wonderful time with the students.

“After we read the story, it was clear that students understood the deeper lessons as they discussed the importance of sharing and working together to build something from seemingly nothing, or in the case of the book, making soup from water, a stone, and a bunch of different vegetables and spices contributed by members of the community,” Superintendent Cardon said.
Ann also looks forward to future community activities at TCAPS schools.

“I hope that in my new position, I can continue to make strong local connections because our schools are a reflection of the community, and we are both better when we are in it together.” 

The veggies were added by what cooks the fastest, with potatoes going in first and cauliflower going in closer to the end. The soup was truly made from scratch, there wasn’t even stock used. The broth was made from a simple mix of sauteed onions, garlic, herbs and water.

The soup cooked for about five hours and was served to students, faculty, staff, parents and luckily, me. I wondered how a soup not made with prepared stock would taste and now I know; very, very good. Perfectly cooked veggies, potatoes that weren’t mushy and a dark red broth that was the perfect amount of salty made for a perfect Fall soup.

The little ones seemed to enjoy too, and it probably didn’t hurt that they were all a little house-proud of the soup they all helped make.

The Stone Soup story tells the importance of sharing and community and the Montessori Stone Soup event embodied the theme perfectly. Between kids and community members coming together to make the soup and the great parents, faculty and staff at Montessori facilitating the day, my first bowl of Stone Soup will be one to remember.

Categories: GTPulse